Candice Carty-Williams and Bernardine Evaristo have emerged as the first black authors to win the top prizes at the British Book awards since it was instituted in 1994. They won the book of the year and author of the year awards respectively.
Also known as the Nibbies, the British Book awards are produced by the UK’s book trade magazine – the Bookseller. For the first time, the ceremony was held entirely online.
According to The Guardian, the awards are judged on the quality of writing, the innovation of publishing, and sales and Carty-Williams won the book of the Year Monday night for “Queenie”, her debut novel about a young black woman navigating life and love in London.
Judge Pandora Sykes described Carty-Williams’ novel thus: “It is such an assured and original piece of debut fiction. Weighty issues about identity, race, family, heterosexuality and mental health are distilled into prose which is easily digestible, but extremely impactful.”
“Overall, this win makes me hopeful that although I’m the first, the industry are waking up to the fact that I shouldn’t and won’t be the last,” Candice Carty-Williams said.
BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020 ? And the FIRST Black AUTHOR to win it let alone Black WOMAN since the prize BEGAN in 1994? Sorry for all the caps but what are you telling meee #Nibbies pic.twitter.com/QqUGvfvgxP— Candice Carty-Williams (@CandiceC_W) June 29, 2020
Meanwhile, Evaristo, who was the joint winner of last year’s Booker prize for her polyphonic novel Girl, Woman, Other, was named author of the year at the British Book awards, becoming the first black writer to win in that category as well.
Evaristo also won the fiction category and she is the first black British woman to top the fiction paperback charts earlier this month.
“This is such an interesting moment in our cultural history because the Black Lives Matter movement has generated an unprecedented amount of self-interrogating in the publishing industry,” novelist Evaristo said.
“I was already adjusting to seeing my name on the bestseller list for 20 weeks, off and on, but then to hit the top spot and then to realise that I was the first woman of colour to get there since records began, well, it’s a lot to take in.
“I’ve been writing for a very long time, and it’s incredibly gratifying to know that my work is finally reaching a wider readership. It’s also fantastic to see so many other books by writers of colour storming the charts. I’m pretty sure this is unprecedented. Of course, this has been triggered by the tragedy of George Floyd’s death and we should always remember that,” she noted.